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The nation’s capital is becoming a leader in creating sustainable communities.
In modern construction and home design, green is the gold standard. Practices that respect conservation of resources and preservation of the environment are being embraced by communities countrywide. One of the biggest success stories is Washington, D.C., and the surrounding region, an area that is casting a bright light as a national leader in green construction.
Here, eco-friendly living spaces outfitted with clean-energy features are sprouting up like summer flowers. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the nation’s capital has the most LEED-certified space of the country’s top 10 greenest cities. This optimistic, can-do environmental spirit is buoyed by offers of rebates and tax credits for residential energy efficiency.
When green initiatives make financial sense, it’s a classic win-win.
Three local housing communities show how it’s done.
Gables Upper Rock
Gables Upper Rock, an apartment community in the Upper Rock District in Rockville, Maryland, has a sleek, urbane look that is drawing clients with hardwood floors, stainless-steel kitchen appliances, a sophisticated fitness center, saltwater pool and wi-fi café. Beyond the conveniences is a sustainability effort that is just as impressive.
Gables Residential features a slew of green features, including car-charging stations, separate trash chutes for recycling, low-flow fixtures and high-efficient lighting. One of the buildings will incorporate natural gas for cooking, heating and hot water, saving residents more than 30 percent on their utility bills and reducing their full-fuel-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent. Gables Residential is partnering on the project with USAA, the Fortune 500 financial services company.
Jorgen Punda, regional vice president of investments for Gables Residential, expects the project to achieve Bronze Certification under the National Green Building Standard, which provides green building practices for builders, remodelers, and land developers to plan green projects.
The green initiative that is guiding Gable Upper Rock is a big pull for clients. Phase one, a total of 275 apartments, is complete, with 85 percent leased. Phase two, accounting for another 276 units, is underway. Eventually the community will offer a mix of residential, office, and retail space.
While the looks are sleek, the apartment complex maintains a warm ambience. Punda explained how Gables Residential pulled it off. “The idea is to create a unique campus-like feel with interesting architecture, a variety of public pocket parks and public art that everyone can enjoy,” he said. “We wanted to create a unique environment with high quality materials and details that set us apart from our competition.”
Sheridan Station, in Washington, D.C., has a distinctly Washingtonian look, with traditional architectural elements that include a façade of brick and hard-plank with high-end touches such as generous portrait windows. The 327-unit mixed-income community is being lauded for its transit-oriented location, one block from the Anacostia Metro Station, and forward-thinking features such as reduced parking ratios, dedicated bicycle spaces and a green roof.
The roomy interiors have fashionable features like wood laminate flooring, hardwood cabinets and outdoor terraces. ENERGY STAR appliances and natural gas furnaces, water heaters and cooking equipment support the green theme. Both rentals and for-sale condominium town homes and apartments are offered.
The multifamily building received a LEED Platinum rating, said Brad Fennell, senior vice president of the Washington, D.C., real estate firm of W.C. Smith.
"It was in recognition of its superior energy efficiency and quality design," Fennell said.
The building has a 100kw photo voltaic array on its roof, the solar array generating almost half of the building’s common electric usage, he added. To encourage the health of its residents and a thriving community spirit, Sheridan Station is equipped with a state-of-the-art fitness center, resident business center, community meeting space, and conversation areas.
The Galaxy Apartments
Just a hop from bucolic Rock Creek Park and the Silver Spring Metro Station, The Galaxy stands like a gleaming sentry, its sun-washed exterior reaching skyward. What you can’t see is the green roof that crowns the 195 apartments in the community.
The living roof is one sustainable feature that designers have incorporated into The Galaxy. Energy efficient natural gas is used for cooking and hot water. The underground garage includes a plug-in station.
“Rooftop solar panels capture sunshine for energy,” said Scott Copeland of RST Development, LLC, in Rockville, Maryland.
Clever floor plans make good use of the apartment interiors' beautiful sun-filled spaces. High-style kitchens are equipped with custom cabinetry, granite countertops and "clean steel" stoves, microwaves, dishwashers and refrigerators that have the look of stainless steel but easier cleaning.
Here, as in so many communities, food and culture are star attractions. The Galaxy, a short drive from the capital, draws on Silver Spring’s international air. The many restaurants offer an array of international and American ethnic cooking. A brewery and the Silver Spring Farmers Market, held May through October, are testaments to the blossoming spirit of environmental and cultural food initiatives.